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Ted Bundy’s Third Grade Teacher May 17, 2012

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Teaching.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I don’t know who Ted Bundy‘s teacher was, but I can’t help but wonder if she (sorry, but the majority of elementary teachers do have that XX chromosome thing going), noticed anything off about young Ted? Serial killers may take a while to reach their full potential (ouch!), but from those who’ve been studied, it’s clear that there was something off early on. Perhaps the class hamster met an untimely death?  Or maybe, like so many psychopaths, Ted skated by on superficial charm. Think Eddie Haskell from Leave It to Beaver.

‘Wally’ Cleaver: [at the bottom of the staircase, calling out to his mother upstairs] Hey, Mom!
June Cleaver: Yes, Wally.
‘Wally’ Cleaver: Could Eddie spend the night here?
June Cleaver: Not while your father’s away.
‘Eddie’ Haskell: [dejected] Boy. Everybody around here is wise to me. I might just have to move to a new town and start all over.

Historically, the Big Three predictors of aberrant behavior are bed wetting, cruelty to animals, and fire starting. Personally, I’d add laughing when other children are hurt and inappropriate remarks showing callowness and a lack of empathy. Yet while most people associate psychopaths with serial killers, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Feb 19, 2011 issue of New Scientist, a crackerjack science magazine, featured an interview with Kent Keihl, who’s studied the origin in the brain of psychopathic behavior. Kent also grew up down the street from Ted Bundy which only stoked his interest in how two people in the same zip code take such different trajectories in life.

I couldn’t help but fixate on his comment, “There are probably many psychopaths out there who are not necessarily violent, but are leading very disruptive lives in the sense that they are getting involved in shady business deals, moving from job to job, or relationship to relationship, always using resources everywhere they go but never contributing. Such people inevitably leave a path of confusion, and often destruction behind them. ” (Bold face mine.)

Robert Hare, the Godfather of Psychopathy, wrote Sharks in Suits detailing how psychopaths have been able to thrive on Wall Street and as CEOs.  Think Bernie Madoff and the path of destruction he left behind. And he didn’t even need duct tape!

I found Can You Call a 9 Year Old a Psychopath?  featured last Sunday in The New York Times Magazine to be a fascinating read. The Huffington Post did a follow-up piece 9-Year-Old Psychopaths – Dr. Alan Ravitz on How to Diagnose Children as Psychopaths.

Okay, I teach 9-year-olds. Have I had any students who I thought were psychopaths?  I can think of one, maybe two. But only time will tell. As teachers, we’re forever hopeful that we can make a difference. But still, I document everything so when America’s Most Wanted comes knocking, I’m ready.

The thinking has always been that it is irresponsible to diagnose/label a developing child as a psychopath. So children exhibiting symptoms that would be considered psychopathic traits in the adult population are diagnosed instead with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and then graduate to having Conduct Disorder (CD). Rhoda, the character from the cult movie The Bad Seed, was so cloyingly sweet and manipulative, she could have evaded that ODD diagnosis altogether. While not all of those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are psychopaths, all psychopaths have strong narcissistic traits. But this does not factor in as children are inherently narcissistic, so narcissism is a given. Bottom Line – Psychopathy, Anti-Social Personality (Sociopathy) and Narcissism are like close kin all dancing around that same May Pole of Lack of Empathy.

Some children diagnosed with these disorders eventually “grow out of them” and become functioning adults. The psychiatric community has always erred on the side of caution, as there’s much we don’t know about the developing human brain and/or the genetic predisposition for psychopathy. It’s the old nature vs. nurture, or possibly a N&N cocktail of circumstances. Just like drinking, you can’t officially become a psychopath until you’re 18.

That said, I’ve got stories. I’ve had students whose parents thought I was the teacher who could turn their child around. And I tried mightliy – but the Mississippi flows south. I have a friend who carries a mug that says Miracle Worker, but as teachers, we can only do so much. We’d all like to think that we can be The One who makes a difference, but more often than not the die is cast. I take no joy in saying this.

When I tell people I teach third grade, their response is often, “Oh, they’re so cute at that age. They don’t have all the problems that come with older kids.” What rock have they been hiding under? We have students who have had IEPs (Individual Education Plans) since Kindergarten to deal with a variety of emotional issues (frequently a result of abuse), but sometimes not.

I’ve had students who laughed when another child was hurt (and not the nervous laugh), or go out of their way to inflict physical or emotional pain on their peers. I’ve also had students who were bald faced liars and master manipulators – at 7 years of age. I even had a student who so terrified his babysitter that he made her pay him $5 day to go to school! And I’ve had parents in denial while others were at wit’s end as to how to deal with their child’s behavior.

I’ve seen some scary s*it, so I remain vigilant – and I document everything. And I’ve also never had a class hamster – just in case.


1. Richard - May 17, 2012

Excellent post. Particularly for those in denial.


2. T. AKA Ricky Raw - May 17, 2012

Bottom Line- Psychopathy, Anti-Social Personality (Sociopathy) and Narcissism are like close kin all dancing around that same May Pole of Lack of Empathy.

I’m starting to believe these aren’t even separate disorders but rather just different manifestations of the same disorder. For example when the emotional vampire needs you for something, that is, narcissistic supply, he’s more of a narcissist. When he doesn’t needs narcissistic supply, either because you’re too unimportant or because you are at the end of the devaluation and discarding cycle, he behaves like a sociopath. If he is in the stage where he still feels there is narcissistic supply to be extracted from you and he has no backup, alternate sources of supply groomed, and you try to leave him, he’ll act like a borderline. They may have a preferred coping strategy that makes them seem primarily psychopathic, narcissistic or borderline, but if you know any long enough and see them in a variety of situations, you realize they cycle through all of the roles eventually.

One of the reasons the DSM-5 has made proposed changes to Personality Disorders is that so many of these overlap. It’s sounding more like someone has a dominant disorder, but that the others “cycle through” (as you say) depending on various situations/scenarios. But again, the common denominator (That’s something we’re learning in 3rd grade :)) is lack of empathy. Jan


3. Catherine Sherman - May 17, 2012

I’d read that NY Times article, too, and felt my blood run cold. As you wrote, children do manifest a lot of self-centered and narcissistic behavior, and adults can exacerbate these traits or they can help to bring out the best in a child, but there’s only so much you can do. Raising a child who is hard-wired to lack empathy must be so heart-breaking. What can you do? How much does the environment have to do with the psychopathy?

Ted Bundy had a very dysfunction upbringing, yet he learned how to mimic normal people, as Ns do. Before Ted Bundy was caught, I remember reading in horror about all of the young women found murdered in the Seattle area. They all had dark hair, parted in the middle, which I did at the time. Bundy was very clever in how he lured these women to their deaths by pretending to be injured with a crutch, which he then used to disable them. In a way, that’s much like what Ns, too. They take advantage of people’s good natures and prey on the most trusting, completely blindsiding them.

I didn’t read this book, “The Stranger Beside Me,” but I did flip through it when I saw it. It’s by Ann Rule who worked with Ted Bundy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stranger_Beside_Me

Here’s a overheated description of the book. “Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me defies our expectation that we would surely know if a monster lived among us, worked alongside of us, appeared as one of us. With a slow chill that intensifies with each heart-pounding page, Rule describes her dawning awareness that Ted Bundy, her sensitive coworker on a crisis hotline, was one of the most prolific serial killers in America.”


Not only did most of his victims resemble each other, they resembled a woman he dated for awhile who broke up with him. She was from a well heeled family and Ted came up short. He then proceeded to go out of his way to appear to be an up and comer. Then he looked up his old girlfriend, went out of his way to charm her and impress her. She was captivated. She was in love. And then he summarily dumped her. Jan


4. kiwigal007 - May 18, 2012

The more that I come into this site of yours Jan, the more aware that I become of Narcissitic personalities and the problems I have faced not just with the N that I was with for seven years but within the workplace, in my family and just general living. Last night I really did not know anything about Ted Bundy and so I did a ‘wiki’ search on him and discovered him in there. It is interesting to note how he killed all these innocent woman and somehow it makes me wonder if he was doing all of this to get back at his mother or from watching the way his grandfather acted around others and he took his cue from him.

Whatever was going through this man’s mind is beyond belief and I am pleased to hear that he is no longer with us. Over time and in my workplace (I too work with kids 5-11 years) one of my workmates has been underminding things that I do or do not do and being the placid person that I am, I have not said much… until now. I ended up making a formal complaint and hopefully next week our team will be ‘educated’ every so often through workshops on working together and being professional in the workplace etc. In that time I too will document anything that happens or goes on. Most of it until now I have stored in my head but from now on I will write it down so should a pattern occur I can then look back on things and then take the matter further should I need to. C, used to tell me that as a kid he would often cry because he had no one to play with or that his siblings would not spend time with him and it was hard on his parents (who split up when he was 14) to keep him happy. One day he hit his elder sister over the head with a cue stick without showing any remorse and she showed no signs of anger or frustration and apparently walked off. C told me that he was shocked when he saw her do that and was expecting her to cry or run to his parents. C’s parents had seven kids in total but two were still born either side of his birth. His younger sister came a few years later and it was then he had a playmate.

I just read how evil Rhoda was and although I am no expert when it comes to this sort of thing, part of me wonders whether the parents are to blame for the child’s behaviour or at least a close relative and the child has learnt unacceptable behaviours from the way the adult is. I know from personal experience my own father was not the lovey dovey kind of father and his own father ruled his family with an iron fist. Dad suffered many ‘traumas’ over the years including stuttering, anxiety and now has MS which has never shown up in the family tree before. In my own family I suffer from panic attacks and the odd bout of depression (often brought on by outside forces such as the probs I had with C) and my own siblings have their own woes too. I could write so much more in here but I just want to say thanks for a great post once again Jan, you have brought up some very valid issues regarding kids and what may become of them once they become adults.

In America, Ted Bundy = Serial Killer. If you read my response to Catherine’s comment, you can see the shame he felt at having been dumped by a woman who he viewed as being of a higher status than he was fueled his rage. I think one of the only real emotions narcissists feel is shame when they’ve sustained a narcissistic injury.

I have a friend whose father wasn’t a narcissist, but he was very emotionally distant and controlling. As a result, she married a man who…you guessed it…was emotionally distant and emotionally controlling. They divorced. Husband #2 was more of the same only with NPD thrown in. I realize now how she’d been conditioned as a child. Ultimately, she recreated the same dynamic with both of her husbands hoping for a different outcome.

CZBZ at The Narcissistic Continuum (on my blogroll) wrote a funny post a while back about how her family tree would look if everyone had the disorder they suffered from beneath their name. Like they say, “Everyone is normal – until you get to know them.” Jan


5. shoutabyss - May 18, 2012

Very interesting stuff. The kind of stuff I’ll definitely read up on as time permits. Do I believe a nine-year-old can my a psychopath? Yeah, I’m pretty much convinced.

The first album by the rock band Styx had a song called Movement for The Common Man. In the middle of the song it breaks and they have old timers saying pithy things like, “Kids today they have too much money.”

The song was released in 1972. Now, 40 years later, here I come saying, “Kids today they have too much money!” The prism of the past always colors our viewpoints. Each generation feels things are whack and the here and now is somehow worse than the past. The reality, I think, is that things tend to be more similar than we realize.

Are kids today that much different than the kids of 40 years ago? I’m not so sure.


6. Lesley - May 18, 2012

Great piece Jan and Hi to all,
Writing this from my sister Lynne’s home, North of Scotland …Freezing!
I’m sure we notice them quickly, but our natural compassion/empathy looks or searches for other reasons. I teach /have taught in higher/further education so they are at least 16 and can be 80- when I meet them.
In my experience,Its often the wonderfully polite,’butter wouldn’t melt ‘ones who are behind the other’s daily rages or fallouts.
I remember a brilliant old boss I had advising me to ‘always look at who is reporting the baddies to you…who is stirring the pot?’
Really wise advice.The true Psychopath covers his/her tracks.Blames others.Shakespeare’s Iago.
I remember a neighbour’s child who needed watching,a slightly older girl who always seemed to be there when the younger kids,my boy included, got hurt,fell over,came off bikes.I came out the back of my house once and saw her lifting my son and her own brother over a high wall…with a twelve foot drop to scare them? I never let him out with her again.She went on to have textbook form,burned down part of a local school at sixteen.
Are they amongst us,of course….In time, I hold fast to this belief, we will be able to understand or modify the amygdala or diagnose an early fault in that small structure which lies beneath the forebrain.
For now, we simply do not have the technology.Then nurture has it’s way too?
Six or seven years ago, I had the ‘pleasure’, fascination?of working with sub-psychopath.Surprisingly it was in a charitable organisation,not big business or a commercial concern.
She did, with extreme relish manipulate others, have ‘chaudenfroid’,real pleasure in others pain or discomfort.She wasn’t the boss but was on a very different singular agenda to everyone else…
I remember a conversation in a car during a trip away,someone asked her when her daughters birthday was’In about a month’ was the reply’…’What’s she getting?’ She paused for a moment… ‘Oh, I’ve told her that children over seven don’t get birthday presents,not in our house’…she said this calmly,staring ahead. The person who had asked the question said ‘Er…right but you told her in 2 minutes you were kidding..right?’.
‘No, I find she is behaving better this way, let her wait…’.resume stare ahead.
I had several run -ins/attempts to redeem situation with this person and always came out feeling cheated,foolish,as if nothing could be done.Saddened.
It is frustrating because at times it feels as if you are up against a force that cannot be interpreted or understood and thus cannot be reasoned with…at the moment, I think our best chance is to recognise it and label it. Maybe also,for our own safety, to avoid it.

Oh, I so love that you used the expressing “stirring the pot,” as I use that all the time with my students. 😉
The dialogue is from the old TV series “Leave it to Beaver,” which I doubt ever played across the pond. The character Eddie Haskell drips with fake sincerity and concern whenever his friend Wally’s parents are around. (A “Butter wouldn’t melt one”?)
My friend had an affair with a man she later realized was a N. Even before she went to see a counselor (we’d say therapist here), a woman who worked with the man confided that she thought he was a psychopath. The woman did have some experience in this area as she’d been married to one. Shudder.
Both of your stories are telling. Sometimes it’s only in retrospect that we can label the behaviors which unsettled us at the time – your neighbor’s child for instance.
I agree with you on all counts. Your personal experiences are telling. If only these people came with the old skull and crossbones POISON label.
Always, Jan


7. Lori - May 19, 2012

Hi Jan, Lesley, Shell and Everyone!

Interesting piece and re: Ted Bundy, I plan to do a search and read more about him.

The part about the “predictors of aberrant behavior” was chilling. My ex-N used to brag about climbing trees at night and taking baby owls out of nests and raising them. It got gory when he talked about stealing kittens from neighboring homes and feeding them to the owls…seems he has the animal cruelty portion firmly in place.

A rather chilling personal story was an experience I had a with my niece and an adolescent male (She’s 15, he’s 14) at her school. The story she related to me was that he would follow her, sit and stare at her, and one day at track practice, she saw him watching the runners and herself from the bushes/trees by the running path. What she then said scared me, because I myself had the same thought about my ex-N just a few months before. My niece said that as she ran by and notice him staring, his face reminded her of the face of the Wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood book that I used to read to her. That book was one that I had as a little girl, and the picture shows a wolf looking out from the bushes as LRRH walks by. Just a few months earlier, I described that same picture to a friend about my ex-N, particularly how the wolf had the same, emotionless yet evil-looking stare the N would have when he looked at me and at others. The picture scared me as a child and continues to do so. Obviously, it scares my niece. Like Ted Bundy, it just reeks of that predatory-type behavior…a complete lack of soul, for whatever reason, N vs. N, chemical imbalance, etc.

Okay the “creep factor” has kicked in. That’s one very apt and disturbing image. And one we can all relate to. As an adolescent, Bundy used to wander his neighborhood – he was essentially a Peeping Tom. As a teacher, I’m always disturbed by children who are cruel to animals or other children and speak matter-of-factly about it. It’s just like with a N. once you know what you know, you can look back and see that the signs were there all along. You just misread them or tried to explain away the aberrant behavior. BTW, my entire family had an interest in true crime stories when I was growing up. You might want to read my post Why I Love Dexter. Jan


Lesley - May 23, 2012

Hi there Lori,Jan and all…
The story about the owls and kittens is so repugnant…abject cruelty.where does a wish to do something like that come from??
The look you talk of, Lori…yes I have experienced these’expressions’with my ex.He had a look which was devoid of any feeling completely,like there was nobody’in’.There was also another ‘plotting’ look, as if he was indulging in a revenge fantasy, his lip would curl. He didn’t seem to have self awareness of how he appeared during these episodes.
Re Bundy’s facade, especially to his co workers, I find this both fascinating and terrifying. Clearly Ann Rule posed no threat to him,she was actually part of the stage props of his false self.
My ex kept many props around him,willing junior staff,his macho but superficial buddies but very few people actually saw his true self.
I’ve just heard that his recent European trip which was billed as a trip round the architecture of several capitals was actually a tour around Europe’s sex tourist cities.He actually spent three days in Amsterdam whilst telling everyone he was still in Britain on business. I feel another hot shower coming on..Eurgh!
Here’s the thing,these guys….isn’t the risk enormous? Is that
what get’s a somatic narcissist off?I’m thinking of Arnie Schwarzenegger,Dominic Strauss Kahn..these guys live in the public eye and it’s almost like they want to be caught.
Everyday,although I am getting better I have to reconcile a picture of my ex having my parents to stay at his house,making provision for my Mum who is disabled or sitting discussing his day with me at the kitchen table- alongside
his visiting prostitutes!
Just a note on the’predictors’, one of my’N’s’ predictors was
definitely his taste in books.Nestling between the classics and spy novels were really gory, slasher paperbacks.all about violence against women, in graphic detail.
I chided him about it once but his answer was just ‘Doesn’t everyone read them?’
Truly their view of the world is all. They just don’t see it any other way.

I’m still recovering from Open House at school. Thirty-one children dressed as historical characters reciting their life stories. Argh!
Hmmmm…With narcissists and psychopaths (since all psychopaths are highly narcissistic), their very existence is a fabrication – a grand lie. Imagine that each day of your life is a series of lies, whether they be by exaggeration or lies of omission.
Narcissists also tend to be impulsive. Like raccoons, they’re attracted to shiny things. And people can be shiny “objects.” They also don’t think the rules apply to them and their grandiosity allows them to entertain thoughts/actions, while not considering (or caring about) the down side. They really do believe their own BS. If they didn’t, they’d have to confront the emptiness of their existence, and that SO won’t happen. So as you said, “Truly their view of the world is all. They just don’t see it any other way.”


Lesley - May 25, 2012

Thankyou Jan, I do feel a bit out on a limb with this, but the reason I know about the sex tourism is because his circle of ‘friends’ is starting to rust, I think rust is appropriate word…the beans are beginning to be spilled.
Yeah,you are so right, the shininess appears to be all. My remaining question to him is ‘Who are you wholly yourself with?’ Not me,not friends,not family…in reality they have noone.Most nights I think he sits alone at the table these days.They are not infallible.
Interestingly, it’s one of the perils/highs of being European.£39quid will get you to Brussels/Amsterdam from Edinburgh,then on train to Copenhagen etc.He clearly has indulged.Architecture my arse(hope you allow!)
To end on a high… I love your pig in a hat…and such a pretty
hat.Hey girl, you gave her flowers and everything. Good on you. Keep writing,much much appreciated. Lesx

ps. I love the life stories, but remember I have big people, I get uncensored versions.(LOL)

I love the term arse! The Brits can make anything sound less crass than the American version. Who can they be “themselves” with? I have to believe the answer is no one. First, they don’t have a true self – only a false self that’s been carefully crafted and perfected with practice. I’m not saying this is done in an evil way. It’s just a survival skill they’ve used their entire lives. It’s how they roll.

I’ve mentioned in posts that I thought I was Joe’s “go to” person. There was something about him. He seemed full of bluster, but would also wince at the slightest criticism. When a co-worker told me she didn’t know how I put up with his dismissive remarks and arrogance, I replied, “I deal with 8-9 year olds all day. He’s just like one of them in a man’s body.”

Ultimately, Joe was close to no one. He was surrounded by acquaintances whom he considered to be his “friends.” It was actually rather sad. But you can’t be yourself if you have no real self. Jan


elissestuart - May 30, 2012

I have to chime in here and I must know what happened with your niece? Did she report the boy to school administration?
She and the rest of the track team should be able to report harassment at the very least. Please let us know if she is safe.


8. Lori - May 26, 2012

Hi Everyone:

Gone for a bit as I am DONE with school and very happy about that. Can’t wait to start the job search, after I’ve taken my boards. This is a huge relief for me 🙂

I think you’re right about the “shininess” that is so appealing. Everything is new and wonderful, and their “true” selves is not out there. They can pretend to be whomever they wish. It’s actually very sad.

I took everyone’s advice and left Gavin’s classes, it’s just so hard with the mutual friends. I had one telling me the other day about him and Patty, how she helped him move, how he’s texting her all the time. It just becomes so infuriating that she has somehow managed a relationship out of him and he just dumped on me. She even told a good friend of mine that I moved (She said she heard it from Gavin) before I could tell my friend. The other night I was contemplating moving to another city to get away from all this. Has anyone else felt like this?


Hi Lori,
First of all, congrats on finishing school. That’s MAJOR! 🙂 I can understand the exasperation you’re feeling because you’re still hearing about his exploits through a mutual friend. Does this friend know what happened? Because they’re doing you no favor by providing “intel.” And you must know on some level that his “relationship” with this other woman is just a convenience. She’s willing to be used. I imagine you’re feeling like you’ll never be free of him/thoughts of him as long as he’s nearby, so that’s why the idea of moving came to you.

Time does heal (as long as you don’t have people reporting back to you his coming and goings). He had no real feelings for you (sorry, but…) and he has no real feelings for her. Quite possibly, your world (and having living in NYC, I know your world can be quite small since everything is available within a few blocks) has been tainted by your encounter with him.

The feeling of not being able to escape from the carnage can be geographical or emotional. In your case, it sounds like because you still associate with people who continue to visit “the scene of the crime,”you’re being re-traumatized when you talk to them. Just a thought. Jan


lesley - May 29, 2012

Hey Jan, Lori and everyone,
I just wanted to say Lori, that I felt like this a couple of weeks ago
that somehow I would have to move,change the circle I knew in order not to feel the pain. I worked through it… will never knowingly put myself in the N’S path again. For me this means absolutely no contact.
With regard to any joint acquaintances,it’s difficult.There are those who love to pass on ‘a tale’ At the moment I listen because it helps me confirm that my gut instinct was right about my ex.In a month or so,I hope to be free of even looking like I’m
I’ve just said to Shell on another mailing,that I think we sometimes… after these relationships need to distinguish between ‘Pining’ and ‘Mourning’.
Pining is a repetitive,going nowhere process,an emotional dead end,if you will.We trap ourselves by indulging?
Mourning,rather, is utterly different. Mourning is a stage process in which we allow ourselves to grieve,get angry,weep but ultimately,by being real,move on.
I am sure as eggs are eggs not going to keep pining for the Narc.Jan is right,I do not want the’Retrauma’.
Keep Going,Keep Strong…great on you for completing studies,Best of Luck with Job Search.

Your comments are spot on. Regarding pining vs. mourning. I think someone once told me it’s the difference between being infatuated vs.fixated on someone. Fixation and the endless replays can only bring pain and “bond” us in a negative way to the N. You sound like you are in a very good place ATM. I joked to my husband that eventually I’ll be able to do a world tour of Lesleys! LOL. My dearest friend in the UK is also named Lesley. We met five years ago on a NPD forum and have since met in person six times. It’s the most wonderful thing that came out of an awful experience. 🙂 Jan


9. CZBZ - May 30, 2012

Hi Jan!

I heard the same thing—that bed-wetting, cruelty to animals, and fire-starting were red flags for psychopathy. Something to consider though is how people react when a 9-year old wets the bed: The kid wets the bed, Dad whips his ‘arse, Mom hangs his sheets out for everyone in the neighborhood to see (shaming), the kid comes home and kicks the dog for peeing on the sheets all day and never letting them dry, the kid builds a fire to burn the sheets the dog pee’d on to restore his self-respect and a modicum of dignity.

The problem for parents, is that we interpret our kid’s non-conforming behavior as ‘laziness’ or ‘defiance’ and we deliver punishments accordingly. I think excessive (non-empathic!) punishments could lead to the other factors you mentioned. Thus my fable of the sheet-burning, dog-kicking, bed wetter.

At this point, some researchers suggest that nature sets the foundation and abuse initiates psychopathic development. By abuse, I mean physical abuse and life-endangering neglect. The serial killing psychopath is the result of abuse. (see: Jim/James Fallon: http://woncinema.blogspot.com/2011/11/james-fallon-on-psychopathy-and.html )

In other words, informed and effective parenting can ‘make or break’ a budding psychopath. The key being ‘informed’, which most parents aren’t when raising a child with empathy deficits. You have to face what you’re dealing with in order to ‘fill in’ their deficits. Oftentimes that means going against the grain—like not paddling bed-wetting kids when people tell you to hurt ’em until they stop peeing the bed. (Some of the parenting scripts passed down through the generations could be considered psychopathic!)

P.S. You may remember when my nephew went to ‘juvie’ a few years ago and the therapist said to him, “Do you know what antisocial means? Because the road you are on right now, will get ya there.”

I believe we can ‘choose our way’ into a psychopathic lifestyle even if our brains are basically ‘normal’. So for a kid who has ‘deficits’, we need to teach them what it means to be human, even IF we think we shouldn’t need to do that! In addition, each of us needs to exercise empathy and live by moral principals because society is progressively more accepting of psychopathic behavior.

P.P.S. What a rant!


I watched the James Fallon piece on YouTube. It was excellent. I noticed he’d also done one for TED. I believe you’re right in that some people they have the potential to become psychopaths, but it has so much to do with their upbringing. I’ve had several students who’ve undergone incredible emotional and physical abuse yet emerged as caring people. It’s also true that those abused tend to abuse those who are less powerful than themselves – thus the abuse of animals and younger children. It’s such a vicious cycle. Thanks for your insights. Jan


10. elissestuart - May 30, 2012

Just a mom thoughts:

What a shame that parents react to bedwetting as a sign of defiance when it is more likely a “boy brain: in deep sleep, so much so that
he cannot wake up to use the bathroom.

Too bad the mother didn’t just buy a few sets of sheets on sale and a waterproof pad to protect the mattress.

Part of motherhood, washing laundry. Get over it.

Too bad she didn’t use the experience to teach the child how to do laundry – the future wife would rise up and call her blessed that she’d have a hubby who is not afraid of the washer.

Too bad mom and dad couldn’t wake up the child up before the parents went to bed for one more trip to the bathroom.

Wow let’s humiliate our child that he wet the bed again last night – Bet you’d never find that “parenting tip” in a book from William and Martha Sears……
Wow – wonder century we are living in….
I agree with CZ – maybe better parenting would “break” the budding psychopath.


11. CZBZ - May 31, 2012

Hi Elise! I checked back to see if Jan had replied and here you are!

My concern with this news story Jan posted about, is that the boy will be ‘labeled’ a psychopath and people will give up on him. And once a kid is told he or she is psychopathic, what happens? Kids live up to their diagnosis. My nephew has tried using Asperger’s as an excuse numerous times. Imagine a kid being told he’s psychopathic? What then?

I dunno…parents need to know how to address the child’s deficits/problems, that’s the GIFT of an accurate diagnosis. I’m just not sure that at this point in time, society understands psychopathy well enough to avoid stigmatizing children as potential serial killers. The subsequent rejection by society (friends and family) could be the ‘tipping point’…


I can’t imagine being given such a diagnosis, but it the shoe fits…Yes, labeling a child can have life-long implications. I had a parent who was in denial that her child was autistic. The child could have been receiving interventions to help him, but the parent was positive her son was supremely gifted and teachers didn’t recognize this. It was all very painful as this boy sat in my class and flapped his arms and talked to imaginary people most of the day. Though I realize the damage a label can do (both my sons had labels of their own), I do recognize the importance of identifying certain behaviors that are associated with various disorders. We always hope that “this too shall pass.” But if it doesn’t, we’ve got to be prepared to acknowledge the problem and figure out how to address it. It must, however, be done in a way that’s in the child’s best interest.


12. lesley - May 31, 2012

Hi all,
just thought I’d add a comment to your insightful comments about ‘labelling’. In Britain and Europe we don’t actually use the DSM categories for individual diagnosis or treatment,for the precise reasons you mention…if someone gets stuck then they become a self fufilling prophesy?A label not a person.
The DSM is still widely mentioned however in teaching and training in Psychology and Psychiatry as a way of teaching students how disordered personalities show themselves and how some individuals will have more than one disorder.
How this actually works in practise is something else.There simply
isn’t the money or resources around to give everyone the unique and
individual support they need,here in UK and possibly even less so in the poorer countries in Europe.So….labelling happens anyway!
Here’s a link to a current discussion in the Guardian you might find of interest?

Light Shine,

Thanks so much for the link. It’s an excellent article and brings up many of the concerns that bedevil the psychiatric community (oops! I almost wrote psychiatric industry!) here in the U.S. I’ve written several posts about the proposed revisions.

I guess I would like to know that DSM5 revisions or not, if I walked into a therapist’s office and described the behaviors I saw/experienced with Joe, I could be told that this person sounded very narcissistic. This did happen to a friend in the UK. I felt she was lucky to have a counselor who sorted things out rather quickly. It helped her understand a lot of the abuse. Would it help even more if you were told this person was a “narcissist?” For myself, the answer would have to be YES. Even though I realize there’s some overlap in various disorders, I think of it like college (uni to you!) in the U.S. Many students major in one subject and minor in another. I can remember the first question you would ask upon meeting someone was, “What’s your major?” But then I suppose there are those smarty pants who have a dual major. 🙂 Jan


13. Oliver - June 1, 2012

Some studies have suggested that Narcissists are blunted in terms of originality. They can imitate to the highest degree, but will not create something truly original. Just saying that this could be another thing to look out for. Excellent post though.

It’s hard to be original if you have no sense of yourself. My friend Joe was a master at copying other artists but lacked originality. This is a case where art imitates life – as in the lives of others.


14. Teri - June 12, 2012

WOW! I just found plantetjan and as a victim of a narcissist for 25 years (please forgive me, I am a slow learner) its like “someone else FINALLY gets what I have been through”. It wasn’t me, it was his mental illness. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I have lived everything and more that you have written about, and getting my SPIRIT back has been tough. I think after reading your blogs, I have a better perspective of WHO i know myself to be, but lost for many years, but also a feeling of “someone gets it, and I am not ALONE”. Thanks for the “excellent and informative blogs” and I am so looking forward to reading all your archives. PlanetJan has truly been a GODSEND for me.

Hi Teri,
I have an early flight to catch, but I always eat my breakfast at my computer (the keyboard is evidence). Don’t beat yourself up for being a “slow learner.” Think of yourself as a “late bloomer.” 🙂 CZBZ on The Narcissistic Continuum (on my blogroll) was also married for 20+ years to a N, and she’s one sharp cookie. It’s just so difficult to wrap your head around the idea that there are people out there who lack the basic emotions that make us human. It’s so natural to feel duped and used, even from a short encounter, so I imagine it’s even more so if you’ve devoted decades of your life to such a person only to realize it was in vain. But the good part, and yes there is a good part, is that NOW you know. It was not about you. It was never about you. And you can slowly build relationships with people you trust – the first one will be with yourself. I’d write more, but I gotta plane to catch. Thanks so much for your comment. It made my day.
Always, Jan


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